Fashion: Nine to five

Grey coat, and black jumpsuit, from Fenn Wright Manson Petite range.
Grey coat, and black jumpsuit, from Fenn Wright Manson Petite range.
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As the autumn collections emerge, it’s time to refine the working wardrobe. Stephanie Smith picks out essential key pieces.

A grown-up, polished wardrobe is what the working woman ought to aspire to, based on a thoughtfully edited capsule collection of key pieces which mix and match effectively to give several different looks that will see you glide effortlessly from day to night. At least, that’s the theory.

In practice, it doesn’t always work out that way. Not when half your thoughtful capstule wardrobe is in the wash, or at the dry cleaners, there’s a zip gone in a key piece and your actutal wooden wardrobe is full-to-bursting with clothes you haven’t worn in years but cannot bear to send off to the charity shop. Or the dump.

As the autumn collections begin to make their way in store, it’s an opportunity to take stock, have a clearout and then reinvest in clothes and accessories that will work hard for you. Office wear is a pretty sensible place to start.

Not long ago, it used to feel a bit “back to school”, buying new autumn work wear, but the relaxing of rules on what is appropriate for work has made the task a little easier and a lot more enjoyable.

Comfort is the most important factor, although elegance must never be compromised. Loose, slouchy trousers inspired by the design of tracksuit bottoms make ideal work wear, but they must be in a fabric and cut that clearly distinguishes them as part of a smart wardrobe, so no genuine track pants.

There is room temperature to bear in mind, too. Office heating and air conditioning can sometimes have a mind of its own, which means many of us keep a cardi permanently on stand-by. Hotsquash is a brand that offers well-cut, flattering, elegant separates in luxurious fabrics with patented technology that stops you becoming either too hot or too cold. They are breathable, with anti-odour properties, and quick drying so no need to tumble dry, and they need less ironing.

A well-cut, long-sleeve blouse, in a rich colour such as deep sapphire or emerald, is a key piece for the autumn (a high tie necks adds a modern preppy touch). Team it with another stylish working wardrobe essential of the coming season, a pair of wide-leg trousers. These should work with both flats and heels.

Slim-leg trousers are also a city-chic basic, and it’s a good idea to buy them as part of a trouser suit with a well-fitting tailored jacket that works separately over a dress or with a skirt. Choose one with sleek lines and it will instantly add polish to a variety of looks, and makes smart jeans appropriate for most working environments. Crops are popular for autumn in both wide and slim leg trousers, although they can leave the ankles exposed and chilly.

Fenn Wright Manson is bringing out a new lines for women 5ft 3in and under next month, offering key contemporary pieces from their main line, refitted to suit shorter proportions – worth a look, especially for jackets and crops.

The jumpsuit is perfect for the modern working wardrobe, ideal for dressing up from day to night – black is the easiest and most stylish.

The leather pencil skirt is a perfect way to introduce statement luxury to your autumn working edit, to team with that long sleeve-blouse, and with another key new season wardrobe essential, the white or cream high-neck top (see the Mint Velvet image).

A flattering, well-fitting dress in a quality jersey, plain or with a subtle and refined print, is going to look good with that jacket, so that’s another must. A tailored wool coat in camel, navy or black will work with your whole wardrobe, although dove grey is very sophisticated.

A final work on bags. Smart totes are ideal for most looks, but a sleek backpack is the way to go for a contemporary edge, and the best choice if you walk to work.